Monday, April 28, 2008

No Country for Old Men

All last year, the Patriots' offensive line was celebrated as it offered 'max protection' for Tom Brady. Brady ended up being sacked on 3.51% of his passing attempts, good for 6th in the league.

But the space of 15 minutes in the first quarter of the Super Bowl, the Pats line turned 'old' as Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora got outside the NE tackles and knocked Brady out of rhythm.

Celtics fans rejoiced last summer, when GM Danny Ainge acquired -- in separate deals -- Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, multiple All-Star and likely Hall-of-Famers.

The Celtics cruised through the regular season, and won the first two games in the first round of the NBA playoffs over the Atlanta Hawks. But after two easy wins in Boston, the scene shifted to Atlanta.

And the Southern cooking went over well for the young Hawks. They bounced back on Saturday night with a 102-93 win, but everyone expected a different story tonight.

In tonight's game, the veteran Cs jumped to an early lead, as expected. But the lead stalled out in the first quarter as the offense settled for three pointers. After the Hawks climbed back, the Cs then went on another run to push the lead to 73-63 with 1:45 left in the third quarter.

In the fourth, Atlanta coach Mike Woodson simplified the playbook by turning the ball over to Atlanta's Joe Johnson, who lit up the Cs for 20 in the final quarter. Johnson played all but 2 minutes of the game, and coupled with active bodies like Josh Smith and Al Horford, they challenged Garnett on the boards on both ends of the floor.

The Cs do retain home court advantage, and return to Boston for Wednesday night's Game Five. But the inability to control Johnson, and to control the glass, raises serious questions about the future of this Celtics team. And unlike the Hawks, who start three young players (Smith, Horford, and Marvin Williams), for the Celtics, the future is now.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Before the NBA Playoffs began, the marquee first-round matchup was undoubtedly the Suns-Spurs. With the history of the series a year ago, the Tim Donaghy scandal, and the all-in trade for Shaq this winter, there was every indication that this would be another classic.

But when the Spurs jumped out to a 2-0 lead at home, followed by a desultory Suns effort in Game 3, the only question was whether the Suns experiment had imploaded spectularly.

Now after the kind of effort that, frankly, have occurred in Game Three, the Suns are showing a pulse. As the Red Sox famously showed, 0-3 is not impossible (although it has not occurred in the NBA), and the defensive changes, together with the (re-)emergence of Boris Diaw (and the subsequent control of Tony Parker), means that if the Spurs don't win Game Five, the pressure starts to mount.

The other team that gambled to 'win now' -- the Dallas Mavericks -- are also looking into the abyss, and it appears that the Avery Johnson era may be coming to end in the Big D.


PBS' new 'miniseries', "Carrier" proved (so far) to be in the excellent tradition of the Ken Burns and similar documentaries. The fact that stuck out was the challenges of managing such a diverse group of Americans -- from all different economic, educational, and social backgrounds -- on a floating city that, by the way, is the most powerful weapon in the world today.

The rest of the week should be fascinating.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Great Moments in Campaigning...

Looking at what seems to be a big night for Hillary's campaign tonight (Zogby(*) -- has the overnight margin increasing from 48-42% yesterday to 51-41% today), get prepared for more about how she 'connects' with regular voters while Obama-is-an-elitist.

Exhibit A is Hillary's recent 'shot-and-a-beer' night out (albeit in Indiana, not Pennsylvania):

But the moment is reminiscent of then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the end of his final campaign:

Even more direct was Hillary's late ad (went up yesterday, apparently), which seems to be aimed more at post-Pennsylvania pundit-analysis rather than actually moving voters in the state (putting it up less than 24 hours before the polls open makes it unlikely to be seen by a significant number of Penn. voters). You can almost hear the CNN team now: "Hillary won because she raised questions about whether Obama is up to protecting the country, as evidenced by this video:"

(*) - Zogby is admittedly not the most accurate of pollsters, but is widely reported.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Condi on the Rise?

After watching Mitt Romney audition for the role of putative Vice President a few weeks ago, this weekend marked the floating of Condi Rice's name into the VP waters.

While McCain has plenty of reasons to distance himself from the Bush White House, it's interesting that with the President himself at 28%, and Cheney hitting single-digits, Condi's approval rating are at 56% in a recent Pew poll.

You never know...

Say Goodbye to Mark Penn?

Everyone's favorite Clinton 08 whipping-boy, Mark Penn, appears to have (finally) overplayed his hand. On Friday news broke that Penn had met with the Colombian ambassador and other representatives (Penn's lobbying firm represents the South American nation) over strategy for a NAFTA-like deal for Colombia.

While that wouldn't necessarily be unusual (i.e., a lobbyist meeting with a client), but the timing couldn't be worse -- Penn's highest profile client -- the Clinton Campaign -- was publicly opposing the proposed deal, expected to be submitted to Congress by the White House this week.

So after being fired by the Republic of Colombia on Saturday, Penn was pushed out by the Clinton campaign itself yesterday: a rare "two-fer."

But interestingly, Penn apparently will hold on to the polling work, according to Maggie Williams' statement:
Mark, and Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, Inc. will continue to provide polling and advice to the campaign.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Say Goodbye to Coach Ford?

The UMass Minutemen of the A-10 fell last night to The Ohio State University in the NIT Final. OSU of course, was a NCAA Final Four participant a year ago (albeit witht a few key players now gone.)

But the good post-season performance may be bittersweet for UMass fans, as it appears likely that Coach Travis Ford -- who played under Rick Pitino at Kentucky -- seems likely to be an attractive candidate for a major school with a coaching vacancy (LSU seems to be the leading contender). The up-tempo, attacking style that UMass played this year (led by mercury-quick PG Chris Lowe) will be popular with recruits, fans, and players. And it will presumably get more effective with better, "BCS-sized" players.

(The only quibble with Coach Ford's offense? It needs a catchy nickname that can be trademarked. Like this. Or this.)

This morning Ford claimed that he hasn't talked to anyone yet. And perhaps he hasn't. But at $200,000 per year (plus unspecified bonuses), Ford is well below market.

When the phone rings with a BCS school calling, Ford will be answering. And listening.